Swindon facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Swindon
Swindon town centre, taken from Radnor Street Cemetery, Spring 2012.jpg
Swindon town centre from Radnor Street Cemetery
Swindon shown within Wiltshire
Population 209,156 (Borough, 2011 census)
OS grid reference SU152842
• London 71 miles (114 km)
Unitary authority
  • Borough of Swindon
Ceremonial county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town SWINDON
Postcode district SN1–SN6, SN25, SN26
Dialling code 01793
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance Great Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • North Swindon
  • South Swindon
Website www.swindon.gov.uk
List of places
UK
England
Wiltshire

Swindon (Listeni/ˈswɪndən/) is a large town in Wiltshire, South West England, midway between Bristol, 35 miles (56 kilometres) to the west and Reading, 35 miles (56 km) to the east. London is 78 miles (126 km) to the east, and Cardiff is 78 miles (126 km) to the west. At the 2011 census, it had a population of 185,609.

Swindon became an Expanded Town under the Town Development Act 1952 and this led to a major increase in its population. Swindon railway station is on the line from London Paddington to Bristol. Swindon Borough Council is a unitary authority, independent of Wiltshire Council since 1997. Residents of Swindon are known as Swindonians. Swindon is home to the Bodleian Library's book depository, which contains 153 miles (246 km) of bookshelves and also has the English Heritage National Monument Record Centre and the headquarters of the The National Trust, on the site of the former Great Western Railway works. The town and wider borough also has the headquarters of the Nationwide Building Society and a Honda car manufacturing plant.

History

Wilts-and-Berks-Canal-Swindon
The Wilts and Berks Canal near Rushey Platt

Early history

The original Anglo-Saxon settlement of Swindon sat in a defensible position atop a limestone hill. It is referred to in the Domesday Book as Suindune, believed to be derived from the Old English words "swine" and "dun" meaning "pig hill" or possibly Sweyn's hill, where Sweyn is a personal name.

Swindon was a small market town, mainly for barter trade, until roughly 1848. This original market area is on top of the hill in central Swindon, now known as Old Town.

The Industrial Revolution was responsible for an acceleration of Swindon's growth. It started with the construction of the Wilts and Berks Canal in 1810 and the North Wilts Canal in 1819. The canals brought trade to the area and Swindon's population started to grow.

Railway town

Swindon Community-Center-Railway-Village
Swindon Community Centre - Railway Village

Between 1841 and 1842, Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Swindon Works was built for the repair and maintenance of locomotives on the Great Western Railway (GWR). The GWR built a small railway village to house some of its workers. The Steam Railway Museum and English Heritage, including the English Heritage Archive, now occupy part of the old works. In the village were the GWR Medical Fund Clinic at Park House and its hospital, both on Faringdon Road, and the 1892 health centre in Milton Road – which housed clinics, a pharmacy, laundries, baths, Turkish baths and swimming pools – was almost opposite.

From 1871, GWR workers had a small amount deducted from their weekly pay and put into a healthcare fund – its doctors could prescribe them or their family members free medicines or send them for medical treatment. In 1878 the fund began providing artificial limbs made by craftsmen from the carriage and wagon works, and nine years later opened its first dental surgery. In his first few months in post the dentist extracted more than 2000 teeth. From the opening in 1892 of the Health Centre, a doctor could also prescribe a haircut or even a bath. The cradle-to-grave extent of this service was later used as a blueprint for the NHS.

The Mechanics' Institute, formed in 1844, moved into a building looking rather like a church and included a covered market, on 1 May 1855. The New Swindon Improvement Company, a co-operative, raised the funds for this path self-improvement and paid the GWR £40 a year for its new home on a site at the heart of the railway village. It was a groundbreaking organisation that transformed the railway's workforce into some of the country's best-educated manual workers.

It had the UK's first lending library, and a range of improving lectures, access to a theatre and a range of activities from ambulance classes to xylophone lessons. A former Institute secretary formed the New Swindon Co-operative Society in 1853 which, after a schism in the society's membership, spawned the New Swindon Industrial Society that ran a retail business from a stall in the market at the Institute. The Institute also nurtured pioneering trades unionists and encouraged local democracy.

When tuberculosis hit the new town, the Mechanics' Institute persuaded the industrial pioneers of North Wiltshire to agree that the railway's former employees should continue to receive medical attention from the doctors of GWR Medical Society Fund, which the Institute had played a role in establishing and funding.

Swindon's 'other' railway, the Swindon, Marlborough and Andover Railway, merged with the Swindon and Cheltenham Extension Railway to form the Midland & South Western Junction Railway, which set out to join the London & South Western Railway with the Midland Railway at Cheltenham. The Swindon, Marlborough & Andover had planned to tunnel under the hill on which Swindon's Old Town stands but the money ran out and the railway ran into Swindon Town railway station, off Devizes Road in the Old Town, skirting the new town to the west, intersecting with the GWR at Rushey Platt and heading north for Cirencester, Cheltenham and the LMS, whose 'Midland Red' livery the M&SWJR adopted.

During the second half of the 19th century, Swindon New Town grew around the main line between London and Bristol. In 1900, the original market town, Old Swindon, merged with its new neighbour at the bottom of the hill to become a single town.

On 1 July 1923, the GWR took over the largely single-track M&SWJR and the line northwards from Swindon Town was diverted to Swindon Junction station, leaving the Town station with only the line south to Andover and Salisbury. The last passenger trains on what had been the SM&A ran on 10 September 1961, 80 years after the railway's first stretch opened.

During the first half of the 20th century, the railway works was the town's largest employer and one of the biggest in the country, employing more than 14,500 workers. Alfred Williams (1877–1930) wrote about his life as a hammerman at the works.

The works' decline started in 1960, when it rolled out Evening Star, the last steam engine to be built in the UK. The works lost its locomotive building role and took on rolling stock maintenance for British Rail. In the late 1970s, much of the works closed and the rest followed in 1986.

The Community Centre in the Railway Village was originally the Barrack accommodation for Railway Employees of the GWR. The building became the Railway Museum in the 1960s, until the opening of the STEAM Museum in the 2000s.

Railway Town is also the name of a feature-length documentary made by local filmmaker Martin Parry about the creation of the town around the railway works.

Modern period

Swindonmap 1933
Swindon in 1933
Extract of Ordnance Survey Map SU18
Swindon in 1959 - grid squares are 1km

David Murray John, Swindon's town clerk from 1938 to 1974, is seen as a pioneering figure in Swindon's post-war regeneration; his last act before retirement was to sign the contract for Swindon's tallest building, which is now named after him. His successor was David Maxwell Kent, appointed by the Swindon/Highworth Joint Committee in 1973. He had worked closely with David Murray John and continued similar policies for a further twenty years. The Greater London Council withdrew from the Town Development Agreement and the local council continued the development on its own.

There was the problem of the Western Development and of Lydiard Park being in the new North Wiltshire district, but this was resolved by a boundary change to take in part of North Wiltshire. Another factor limiting local decision-taking was the continuing role of Wiltshire County Council in the administration of Swindon. Together with like-minded councils, a campaign was launched to bring an updated form of county borough status to Swindon. This was successful in 1997, and Wiltshire is now divided into two Unitary Councils, both of equal status. One is Wiltshire Council, succeeding the former Wiltshire County Council and the Wiltshire district councils other than Thamesdown, while the other is Swindon Borough Council, covering the area of the former Thamesdown and the former Highworth Rural District Council.

The closure of the railway works (which had been in decline for many years) was a major blow to Swindon.

Because of this and the major growth in population diversification was continued at a rapid pace and the Town now has all the features of a successful urban/rural Council in the Outer South East Zone.

In February 2008 The Times named Swindon as one of "The 20 best places to buy a property in Britain". Only Warrington had a lower ratio of house prices to household income in 2007, with the average household income in Swindon among the highest in the country.

In October 2008 Swindon made a controversial move to ban fixed point speed cameras. The move was branded as reckless by some but by November 2008 Portsmouth, Walsall, and Birmingham councils were also considering the move.

In 2001 construction began on Priory Vale, the third and final instalment in Swindon's 'Northern Expansion' project, which began with Abbey Meads and continued at St Andrew's Ridge. In 2002 the New Swindon Company was formed with the remit of regenerating the town centre, to improve Swindon's regional status. The main areas targeted are Union Square, The Promenade, The Hub, Swindon Central, North Star Village, The Campus and the Public Realm.

Swindon hosted Radio 1's Big Weekend in May 2009 at Lydiard Park. Building on the work of Radio 1, Swindon Borough Council organised the Big Arts Day in 2010. Aiming to be an annual event celebrating the arts it was held at Lydiard Park in July for three consecutive years before being cancelled due to lack of funding.

2016 saw the resurrection of the Children's Fete at GWR Park Faringdon Road on what would have been the events 150th anniversary.

Geography

See also: List of places in Swindon

The town has an area of about 40 square kilometres (15 sq mi).

The landscape is dominated by the chalk hills of the Wiltshire Downs to the south and east. The Old Town stands on a hill of Purbeck and Portland stone; this was quarried from Roman times until the 1950s. The area that was known as New Swindon is made up of mostly Kimmeridge clay with outcrops of Corrallian clay in the areas of Penhill and Pinehurst. Oxford clay makes up the rest of the borough. The River Ray rises at Wroughton and forms much of the borough's western boundary, joining the Thames which defines the northern boundary, and the source of which is located in nearby Kemble, Gloucestershire. The River Cole and its tributaries flow northeastward from the town and form the northeastern boundary.

Climate

Swindon has a maritime climate type, like all of the British Isles, with comparatively mild winters and comparatively cool summers considering its latitude. The nearest official weather station is RAF Lyneham, about 10 miles (16 km) west south west of Swindon town centre. The weather station's elevation is 145 metres, compared to the typical 100 metres encountered around Swindon town centre, so is likely to be marginally cooler throughout the year.

The absolute maximum is 34.9C (94.8F) recorded during August 1990. In an average year the warmest day should reach 28.7C (83.7F) and 10.3 days should register a temperature of 25.1C (77.2F) or above

The absolute minimum is −16.0C (3.0F), recorded in January 1982, and in an average year 45.2 nights of air frost can be expected.

Sunshine, at 1565 hours a year, is typical for inland parts of Southern England, although significantly higher than most areas further north.

Annual rainfall averages slightly under 720 mm (28 in) per year, with 123 days reporting over 1 mm of rain.

Climate data for Lyneham, elevation 145m, 1971–2000, extremes 1960–
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 13.7
(56.7)
16.6
(61.9)
20.0
(68)
25.3
(77.5)
26.6
(79.9)
32.7
(90.9)
34.4
(93.9)
34.9
(94.8)
28.8
(83.8)
26.5
(79.7)
16.5
(61.7)
14.4
(57.9)
34.9
(94.8)
Average high °C (°F) 6.6
(43.9)
6.9
(44.4)
9.4
(48.9)
12.0
(53.6)
15.7
(60.3)
18.5
(65.3)
21.2
(70.2)
20.7
(69.3)
17.7
(63.9)
13.6
(56.5)
9.6
(49.3)
7.4
(45.3)
13.3
(55.9)
Average low °C (°F) 1.2
(34.2)
1.0
(33.8)
2.6
(36.7)
3.7
(38.7)
6.7
(44.1)
9.7
(49.5)
11.9
(53.4)
11.8
(53.2)
9.8
(49.6)
6.8
(44.2)
3.7
(38.7)
2.1
(35.8)
6.0
(42.8)
Record low °C (°F) −16.0
(3)
−11.3
(11.7)
−8.0
(18)
−4.8
(23.4)
−1.6
(29.1)
0.6
(33.1)
3.8
(38.8)
5.0
(41)
1.5
(34.7)
−3.6
(25.5)
−7.8
(18)
−14.0
(7)
−16.0
(3)
Precipitation mm (inches) 70.1
(2.76)
50.6
(1.992)
58.3
(2.295)
47.7
(1.878)
51.8
(2.039)
58.5
(2.303)
47.2
(1.858)
56.1
(2.209)
63.9
(2.516)
70.4
(2.772)
66.9
(2.634)
77.4
(3.047)
719.0
(28.307)
Sunshine hours 55.2 72.3 108.5 156.9 196.2 194.1 212.4 197.5 144.6 107.3 71.7 48.4 1,565.0
Source #1: Met Office
Source #2: KNMI

Demography

England 259
Christ Church

The 2001 census[out of date] shows there were 180,061 people and 75,154 occupied houses in the Swindon Unitary Authority. The average household size was 2.38 people. The population density was 780/km² (2020.19/mi²). 20.96% of the population were 0–15 years old, 72.80% 16–74 and the remaining 6.24% were 75 years old or over. For every 100 females there were 98.97 males. Approximately 300,000 people live within 20 minutes of Swindon town centre.

It is forecast that there will be a 70,000 (38.9%) increase in Swindon's population by 2026 from the current 180,000, to 250,000.[out of date] The ethnic make-up of the town was 95.2% white, 1.3% Indian and 3.5% other. 92.4% were born in the UK, 2.7% in the EU and 4.9% elsewhere.

The majority of Swindonians (70.3%) identify themselves as Christians. This is followed by those of no religion (19.2%), Muslims (1.0%), Sikhs (0.6%), Hindus (0.6%), other (0.2%) and Judaism (0.1%). In addition, 8.0% of people chose not to answer this question in the 2001 census.

In May 2007[out of date], 65.3% of households in Swindon had broadband Internet access, the highest in the UK, up 5.5% from June 2006.

In 2015, Public Health England found that 70.4% of the population was either overweight or obese with a BMI greater than 25.

Places of worship

Parish Church of St Mark, Swindon New Town - geograph.org.uk - 710358
St Mark's Church (Church of England)
Christ Church, Cricklade Street, Swindon (1) - geograph.org.uk - 331475
Christ Church (Church of England); it was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and built in 1851

There are numerous places of worship in Swindon, some of which are listed buildings. Until 1845, the only church in Swindon was the Holy Rood Church, a Grade II listed building. That year, St Mark's Church was built. In 1851, Christ Church was built. Later in the year, the first Roman Catholic chapel was opened in the city and was also named Holy Rood. In 1866, Cambria Baptist Chapel was built. In the 1880s, Bath Road Methodist Chapel was built. In 1885, St Barnabas Church was built. In 1907, St Augustine's Church in Even Swindon was built. Various churches and places of worship were built in the town by other denominations and faiths.

Polish community

After the end of World War II, Polish refugees were temporarily housed in barracks at Fairford RAF base about 25 km (16 mi) north. Around 1950, some settled in Scotland and others in Swindon rather than stay in the barracks or hostels they were offered.

The 2001 UK Census[out of date] found that most of the Polish-born people had stayed or returned after serving with British forces during World War II. Swindon and Nottingham were parts of this settlement. Data from that census showed that 566 Swindonians were Poland-born. Notes to those data read: ‘The Polish Resettlement Act of 1947, which was designed to provide help and support to people who wished to settle here, covered about 190,000 people ... at the time Britain did not recognise many of the professional [qualifications] gained overseas ... [but] many did find work after the war; some went down the mines, some worked on the land or in steel works. Housing was more of a problem and many Poles were forced to live in barracks previously used for POWs ... The first generation took pains to ensure that their children grew up with a strong sense of Polish identity.'

In 2004[out of date], NHS planners devising services for senior citizens estimated that 5 percent of Swindon's population were not 'ethnically British' and most of those were culturally Polish.

The town's Polish ex-servicemen's club, which had run a football team for 45 years, closed in 2012. Barman Jerzy Trojan blamed the decline of both club and team on the children and grandchildren of the original refugees losing their Polish identity.

Transport

Swindon Magic Roundabout
Swindon Magic Roundabout

At the junction of two Roman roads, the town has developed into a transport hub over the centuries. It is on the historical GWR and on canals. It also has two junctions (15 and 16) on the M4 motorway.

Swindon railway station opened in 1842 as Swindon Junction, and until 1895 every train stopped for at least 10 minutes to change locomotives. As a result, the station hosted the first recorded railway refreshment rooms.

Swindon bus operators are Thamesdown and Stagecoach. The local council acknowledges the need for more car parking as part of its vision for 2010.[out of date] Swindon is one of the locations for an innovative scheme called Car share. It was set up as a joint venture between Wiltshire County Council and a private organisation, and now has over 300,000 members registered. It is a car pool or ride-sharing rather than a car share scheme, seeking to link people willing to share transport.

The town contains a large roundabout called Magic Roundabout. There are five mini-roundabouts within this roundabout and at its centre is a contra-rotational hub. It is the junction of five roads: (clockwise from South) Drove Road, Fleming Way, County Road, Shrivenham Road and Queens Drive. It is built on the site of Swindon wharf on the abandoned Wilts & Berks Canal, near the County Ground. The official name used to be County Islands, although it was colloquially known as the Magic Roundabout and the official name was changed in the late 1990s to match its nickname.

Tourism and recreation

Events

Swindon Mela, Town Gardens, Swindon (2) - geograph.org.uk - 508277
Swindon Mela in the Town Gardens
  • Swindon hosts a number of festivals such as the Swindon Festival of Literature, the annual Swindon Mela (an all-day celebration of South Indian arts and culture) in the Town Gardens – an event which attracts up to 10,000 visitors each year.
  • The Summer Breeze Festival has been held annually in the town since 2007 with headliners ranging from Toploader to KT Tunstall. The family-friendly music event is run by volunteers on a non-profit basis with any funds raised going to charity.
  • An annual Gay Pride Parade called Swindon And Wiltshire Pride is held in the town. The parade has been held in the Town Gardens since 2007. Popular Swedish DJ Basshunter performed in the 2012 celebrations which c.8,000 people attended.
  • The town has a live music scene, venues such as Baila Coffee & Vinyl, The Castle, The Beehive, Level III and The Victoria attract local acts as well as touring national acts. Collectively they host an annual music festival the Swindon Shuffle. The Oasis Leisure Centre and the County Ground are used for some major events. MECA is a 2,000-capacity music venue in the former Mecca bingo hall.
  • The Arts Centre is a theatre in Old Town which seats 200 and has music, professional and amateur theatre, comedians, films, children's events, and one-man shows.
  • The Wyvern Theatre has film, comedy, and music.
  • In 2012 Swindon: The Opera was performed at the STEAM Museum in Swindon by the Janice Thompson Performance Trust, after a successful 2011 Jubilee People's Millions Lottery bid. It charted Swindon's history since 1952 until the present day. Over twenty songs were written by Matt Fox, with music by internationally acclaimed composer Betty Roe MBE.

Shopping

Swindon.shopping.arp.750pix
McArthur Glen Designer Outlet, a shopping complex built within the disused Swindon railway engine works
  • The Brunel Centre and the Parade are shopping areas in the town centre, built along the line of the filled-in Wilts and Berks Canal (where a canal milepost can still be seen).
  • Swindon Tented Market located in the Town Centre, close to the Brunel Centre, was built in 1994. It reopened in October 2009, having been closed for two years.
  • Regent Circus, which opened in 2015 on the site of the former Swindon College building. It contains a Morrison's superstore, along with a Cineworld cinema and several restaurants.
  • Retail parks include Greenbridge (although not located within the township of Swindon but in the urban parish of Stratton St. Margaret, Mannington which is the location of a John Lewis at Home store, Bridgemead, West Swindon Shopping Centre and the Orbital Shopping Park in Haydon Wick Parish
  • McArthur Glen Designer Outlet is an indoor shopping mall for reduced price goods (mainly clothing), using the buildings of the disused railway engine works. The outlet is adjacent to the Steam Museum and the National Trust headquarters. The Swindon Designer Outlet has around 100 shops and is the biggest covered designer outlet centre in Europe.
  • Craft shops within Studley Grange Craft Village, inside Blooms Garden Centre, just off junction 16 of the M4 motorway.
  • Small specialist shops within BSS House in Cheney Manor Industrial Park and Basepoint Business Centre.

Green spaces

  • Public parks include Lydiard Country Park, The Lawns, Stanton Park, Barbury Castle, Queens Park, Town Gardens, Pembroke Gardens and Coate Water.
  • Shaw Country Park currently being developed in West Swindon.

Other

  • The English Heritage Archive is based in Swindon. The Science Museum has its large objects stored on the disused airfield at Wroughton as well as housing the Museum's Library and Archives.

Museums and cultural institutions

  • National Museum of Science & Industry, Wroughton.
  • Railway Village Museum.
  • Richard Jefferies Museum, dedicated to the memory of one of England's most individual writers on nature and the countryside.
  • Steam Railway Museum.
  • Swindon Collection, Central Library. Extensive local studies and family history archive.
  • Swindon Arts Centre, a 212-seat entertainment venue located in the Old Town of Swindon.
  • Wyvern Theatre, the town's principal stage venue.
  • Swindon Museum and Swindon Art Gallery, next to each other.
  • The Museum of Computing the first computer museum in the UK.

In popular culture

  • The 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is set in Swindon.
  • Thursday Next, a character in Jasper Fforde's novels, was born in Swindon.

Images for kids


Swindon Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.